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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

YEARS OF WANDERINGS                       221

were started by Huiching. I am a retired man now. I don't think it
is my business to interfere."

"True enough," said Su Tungpo. "To speak about politics only when
in office is the normal rule. However, the Emperor treated you with
rather more than normal courtesy, and therefore your loyalty should
compel you to break the ordinary rules of courtesy also."

"Yes, yes," said Wang, getting annoyed. And then he continued:
"This conversation comes out of my mouth and enters your ears."
Wang meant that their conversation was not to go outside that room,
for Wang had already been betrayed by Huiching once and was being
careful.

The conversation rambled on, and Wang Anshih said rather dis-
'jointedly: "A man should refuse to do even one thing against his
conscience. He should not kill one innocent man even if he is offered
the entire world for his reward."

"Very true," said Su Tungpo, "except that nowadays some men are
willing to commit murder if they can get a half a year's earlier promo-
don before their term is up."

Wang chuckled but did not reply.

According to many contemporary records, Wang was often seen
during this period riding on a donkey alone in the countryside and
"mumbling to himself like a madman". Sometimes, thinking of his
^old friends who had turned away from him, he would suddenly pick
up his brush and with an eager face begin a letter. But after a while,
lie would lay it down again as if he were ashamed of himself, and the
letters were never written. He continued his diary, which, some years
after his death, was ordered returned to the government as containing
important inside material on the regime. In his disappointed old age,
Wang had become bitter and had made many disparaging remarks
about the Emperor. Fortunately, at that time the government was in
the hands of his own party; but the diary, running to over seventy
volumes, was seen by many people. A few years earlier, when Wang
had heard that Szema Kuang had come to power, he had ordered his
nephew to burn the diary, but the manuscript survived because the
nephew hid it away and burned something else instead.

Wang also began to see hallucinations. In one of his clairvoyant
moods, he saw his only son, who was now dead, being punished in hell.
The son, who he knew was a scoundrel, was pilloried and in chains.
After a guard at his home reported also seeing the same thing in a
dream, Wang was greatly frightened. To save his son's soul from torture
tin hell, he sold his property at Shangyuan county and donated it to a
temple. Wang's report to the Emperor about this donation, in response
to which the court granted the temple a special name, is still preserved.
The day before his death, riding alone in the country, Wang saw a